Author Archives: The Filmsmith

Cinema magic and spectacle stunning in Hugo

3D films have hit a steep decline since Avatar director James Cameron was able to swindle theater owners into converting to 3D projectors.  Rather than new projects, a string of recycled 3D offerings has been appearing in theaters: Disney has failed to properly compete with the computer animated films of Pixar or even Dreamworks, so they’re opting to re-release their hits from the 90s in 3D.  Even Cameron himself has been working on Titanic‘s 3D conversion instead of making another film.  Who would have thought that Martin Scorsese, a director known for portraying the most unsavory of gangsters, would be the one to remind us of the possibilities of 3D?

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Fright Night re-make’s cast gives it bite

The 1985 horror film Fright Night is an imperfect classic:  The oscillating tones of hilarity and horror are undermined by goofy over-dramatic synth soundtrack (yet still charming), as the whiny Charlie Brewster decides what to do about the vampire next door.  Due to these imperfections in the original, the recent remake is a worthy re-telling of the 80’s original. Continue reading

Immortals: Fancy headgears can’t hide lifelessness

When it comes to The Fall, either you’ve never heard of it or you love it.  The Fall director Tarsem went globe-trotting for two years seeking out vibrant, other-wordly buildings, locations, and natural environments to tell his children’s story without the crutch of CGI.  Even his tryst with Hollywood in 2000, The Cell, is a disturbing psychological horror film thanks to the director’s aesthetic.  Recent Tarsem converts are salivating for his latest, Immortals, which returns Tarsem to Hollywood filmmaking with the Greek-gods-centered epic Immortals.  They’ll have to grab a napkin though, ’cause Immortals only underscores Tarsem’s weaknesses as a director – he needs better scripts and narrative substance to back up all that style. Continue reading

Bellflower – A Smoke-Belching, Fire-Spurting, Apocalyptic Love Story

Every January, when Sundance buzz hits its peak, film buff restrained to their local cinemas sift through all the reviews just to salivate over what might make it to our hometown.  This year there was a rumor, the faintest hint, that a film like  Bellflower existed: a film full of emotion and power, a film filled with muscle cars and flamethrowers, a love story at the end of the world.  Bellflower, by most accounts, seemed to be hardly contained by the very screen it was projected on.  Having now seen it, all I can say is that everything I had heard fell far, far short of the actual film. Continue reading

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas should have gone back to White Castle

The Hangover made Warner Brothers half a billion dollars worldwide and became the comedy favorite of many, but it owes a serious debt to Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.  Before The Hangover posse woke up to a lion in their midst, Harold and Kumar rode a cheetah through the woods; random celebrity cameo from Mike Tyson?  Neil Patrick Harris’ recent career revival is directly related to his cocaine cameo in the franchise’s first outing.  Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was the reigning champion of surrealist, insane, shenanigan-filled movies.  Which is why it’s so disappointing that despite a bigger budget and a chance to make up for the lack luster sequel Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, the boys still fail to live up to the hilarity standard they set in 2004. Continue reading

Melancholia – A Stark Fantasy of Depression

Lars von Trier made headlines earlier this year for his Hitler-sympathy gaffe at Cannes, and as a result, that controversy took up the bulk of the conversation. I can’t help but wonder what might have happened had he not spoken out of turn. We might have been more focused on the film he was representing at the Croisette, because truth be told, Melancholia is a devastatingly beautiful film from the famed provocateur. Continue reading

Kevin Smith completely reinvents himself with Red State

Kevin Smith has been making films for almost twenty years, generating a couple of films that hit critical pay dirt (Clerks, Dogma), a few that made cash and satisfied the converted (Clerks II, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), and others that achieved an almost cult status (Chasing Amy, Mallrats).  Before bromance became a part of our lexicon thanks to Judd Apatow flicks, Smith was perfecting the model (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Clerks II).  Considering Smith’s reputation, deeply entrenched within the bromance and dick jokes niches, it’s a dumbfounding discovery to find that his tenth film is a mature, nuanced look at the horrors of contemporary America.

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Moneyball eschews convention

You know that fall Oscar season is on the march when the “based on a true story” dramas start rolling out to your local cinema.  Moneyball looks to be cashing in on this tired format, combining baseball with all-American star Brad Pitt as he tries to win the big game against all odds.  Yet it refuses traditional trappings that are both pleasurable and middling. Continue reading

Life with cancer not all tragedy in 50/50

The last time comedy was placed alongside cancer, it was called Funny People.  Despite Funny People being a quality film, audiences were supremely annoyed that it wasn’t the usual Adam Sandler shenanigans but instead consisted more of drama than comedy.  50/50 should avoid the same sort of audience disdain, as it blends comedy and drama with equal measure. Continue reading

Nicolas Winding Refn – A Brutal Name to Watch

There are very few directors working today as in control of their craft as Nicolas Winding Refn. With his most recent film, Drive, Refn has had his most evident success yet, and probably his greatest work.  Yet Drive is bound to Refn’s previous work via its thematic material and similar cinematic devices.

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